From Pemmican Trails
Length: 41.1 km
Difficulty: Easy through Spruce and Tamarack; the Newfoundland stretch is Moderately Difficult
Effort: ~11 hrs (2 days)
Newfoundland Trail is a part of the Épinette Creek Trail System located in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. The trail begins at a parking lot just off of Highway #5 and then winds its way through hills to an oxbow lake (called Jackfish Lake) near the Assiniboine River. The first several kilometers of the trail are used frequently by bikers during the summer.
Highlights along this trail include views of the Assiniboine River Valley, rolling landscapes, and murmuring streams. All of this scenic beauty is sometimes backed by the sounds of heavy gunfire coming from nearby Shilo army base. The trail is closed during big-game hunting season.
The trail is marked at frequent intervals by bright, yellow signs nailed onto posts. These come in handy at several points where the trail crosses service roads and old trail routes. Junctions are clearly marked by brown, wooden "park" signs with heavy, white lettering.
Be sure to bring a map with you, as certain paths are labeled with “do not enter” signs in certain directions to direct traffic along the trail, and this can lead to some confusion.
Three fully-enclosed shelters are located along this trail, each with a privy, water pump, indoor stove, axe, and even a pile of firewood for your convenience. There is space for several tents by each hut and a couple of picnic tables to sit on. Huts #3 and #4 have lofts that can be slept in. There is also a small hut (#1) located at the trailhead in the parking lot, but there is no water available at this site.
This trail can be hiked at anytime of the year. In the warmer months, the trail is used by day hikers, backpackers, and bike riders. Trails are groomed during the winter for cross-country skiers.
Dangers and Annoyances
Some of the maps published for this trail are slightly inaccurate, misplacing either Hut #3 or Hut #2 by up to half a kilometer. The map posted at the trailhead seems more accurate than the one currently available at the park's web site.
During the big-game hunting season you may encounter hunters along this trail. Hunting seasons vary by species and year, but generally fall between September and November. You can find specific dates online at Manitoba Conservation or by calling them at 204-945-6784 (the park is located in Game Hunting Area #30).
Manitoba Conservation has announced that there will be free park entry into provincial parks until April 30, 2011. (Thanks for the update T.Z.)
At the time of writing, a three-day provincial park pass costs 7$ for a single vehicle and an annual pass costs 28$. Be sure to check with Manitoba Conservation for the most recent pricing scheme. You can pay your fees into a deposit box right at the trailhead. Campsites along this trail are free and do not require any reservations, except for at Jackfish Lake (Hut #4) which is only to be used during the winter and requires reservations (ph. 204-834-8800 after Oct. 1st) and must be paid for in advance.
- Be certain to use only current maps as the trails have been drastically changed recently to prevent further environmental degredation.
- First time backpackers are advised to take as many as 4 days to hike the entirety of the Epinette Creek trail system. The Newfoundland loop can be very difficult for beginners.
This trailhead has a large parking lot, privy, garbage bin, small shelter (Hut #1), and a deposit box where you can pay your park fees. There is also a telephone located inside of the hut for emergencies. The trail starts behind a map of the trail.
This little hut is located only 1.5 km from the trailhead, it has a privy, water pump, stove, axe, picnic table, fire-pit and a pile of firewood. There is not quite as much space here for tents as there is at sites further along the trail.
This small, quaint hut is perched on ridge, overlooking the tree-filled valley where Épinette Creek meanders. It has a privy, water pump, stove, axe, fire-pit, 3 picnic tables and a pile of firewood. There is plenty of room for tents here and a loft in the cabin that will sleep up to two people (3 or 4 more people could also sleep on the floor and benches). This is a very pretty location to spend the night.
Hut #4 (Jackfish Lake Cabin)
Jackfish Lake Cabin is the newest and largest hut on the trail. It has a loft that will sleep 5 people easily, and plenty of benches that can be moved around to sleep a few more. The cabin also has mice. It is requested that campers refrain from staying in the hut overnight between Apr. 1st and Dec. 15th. During the winter you must reserve and pay for this cabin in advance (ph. 834-8800). The site has a privy, water pump, indoor stove, axe, picnic table, large fire-pit and a pile of firewood. An open area nearby has enough space to camp a small army.
Jackfish lake is about 100m from the hut down an overgrown trail behind the water pump. The lake is an oxbow lake formed from an old river bend, and it looks quite unappealing for swimming.
Updated trail maps are located in the cabins both at the trail head and on the trail. A free park map is also available from Spruce Woods Provincial Park at Manitoba Conservation, however it is of quite poor quality. The following is a print-quality image of a freely available park map. Click on each image to view a larger version of the map and then click on "Full Resolution" to view the full-sized image. You can right-click the full-sized image and select "Save Image As" to save the maps to your hard drive.
Getting to the trailhead from Winnipeg is very straightforward and takes about 2.5 hrs. Take the Trans-Canada Highway west out of the city, heading towards Brandon. Turn south on Highway #5 and drive for about 22 km until you see a sign for "Épinette Creek" just past a youth camp. Turn east onto the gravel road and follow it for about a kilometer to the trailhead.
Please see Photos of the Newfoundland Trail for a gallery of images taken along this trail.
For current trail conditions, you can call Manitoba Conservation at their Carberry District Office (ph. 204-834-8800).